Developing Kingdom Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “development”

Casting Vision by Modeling

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.  1 Corinthians 11:1 (ESV)

I was recently asked, “Tom, what is a good way to develop a platform for influencing others?” I replied that a powerful means for influence is your own example and recounted this story of unknown origin that illustrates the power of modeling.

A young man sat on a bench in his train compartment opposite an older gentleman who was engaged in reading his bible.  The young man thought he recognized the older man as one of his personal heroes – a preacher who had great impact and a worldwide ministry.  Seizing the opportunity to talk with his hero, he worked up his courage, cleared his throat and asked him a question.

“Excuse me, sir, but aren’t you Mr. …?” he timidly asked.  Putting aside his bible, the older man responded affirmatively.  “Sir,” the young man continued, “I have admired your ministry for a long time and so desire to have the type of influence you have for Jesus.  Is there any advice the you would have for me to gain that influence which you now have?”

The old saint thought for a moment and then said, “Young man, I find that if you set yourself on fire, others will come and watch you burn!”

Never underestimate the power of your own example.  Point others to Christ and His Kingdom by the way you live as well as your words.  Live your personal calling in such a way as others take notice that you are one whose life backs up what you so proclaim.

Aside from the Bible, the biographies of great men and women of God have more shaped me as a Kingdom leader than any other books.  These ‘historical mentors’ have modeled a way, having blazed a trail that I seek to follow.

Yes, “Leaders are readers!” – but be careful what you read.  Saturate your life with the Scriptures and regularly read biographies of those who were used of God to change the world.  Then, others will come and follow the trail you leave behind.

Is your example worth following?

Frozen by Fear

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”   Mark 4:40 NIV

Fear is an emotion we experience in response to a perceived threat that could be harmful.  Like all God-given emotions, fear is morally neutral; it’s not good, bad or purple.

Fear can be protective as it warns us of something that may be dangerous.  Imagine you are walking in the woods alone, enjoying the solitude and beauty of God’s creation, when suddenly the peace of the moment is jarred by the sounds of rustling, dry leaves and cracking sticks behind you.  Adrenaline is immediately released into your blood stream.  Your heart rate jumps, blood pressure increases, pupils dilate and you quickly move to high sense of alertness.  Is it a bear?  Perhaps it’s a mountain lion?  Or is it just a squirrel or a rabbit?  This reflex-like response is God-given to protect us. Once the potential threat is identified – oh, it was a squirrel – our fear abates and our physiology returns to normal.

Fear can be paralyzing and destructive causing us not to act if we let fear control us.  “Like a deer in the headlights” describes one who is frozen by fear with no response to the on-coming threat.  Kingdom leaders can experience extreme fear of the unknown future that seems so foreboding and too difficult or challenging to want to think about.  They ‘freeze’ and fail act, hoping that the threat will just go away and leave them alone.

God has no fear, for nothing is a threat to Him!  Kingdom leaders have the God knows no fear as One who promises to never leave us – even in the valley of the shadow of death.  Note the exhortation from Jesus in the passage above:  “Why are you so afraid?”  That is, why are you letting your fear control your actions to the point of panic.  His response was to point them to faith – faith in Him. He had said we are going to the other side of the lake, not going to the middle and drown!

Kingdom leaders respond with faith when confronting our fears.  We acknowledge our fears, but do not let our fears dictate our actions. Rather, we act by faith in God who knows the future, who sovereignly controls the present and is powerfully able to deal with any threat we may face now or then.

Frozen or full of faith?  Which are you during these foreboding days?

Vision Casting

Effectively casting vision never comes to an end. It is a discipline.     Derwin Gray

Casting vision is one of the primary responsibilities of a leader and Kingdom leaders especially must align this vision with God’s eternal purposes.  In the quote above we are reminded that vision casting is an on-going process, not an event.

Vision is a faith statement about an unknown future that we see by faith.  Vision statements usually have a time horizon of 5-10 years out in front of our current reality.  Beyond 10 years it’s difficult to have a clear vision due to the rapidity of change and the multitude of unexpected influences that can impact the vision outcomes.

Good vision statements have three common characteristics: they are clear, concise and compelling.

First, they must be clear.  That is, the vision must be clear enough to see the destination or outcome.  An unclear vision makes it difficult for others to decide if they want to join with us or support it financially.

Secondly, they must be concise.  Vision statements that are too long or too complicated are not memorable or easily repeated.  Conciseness takes effort to choose exactly the right words that convey enough to help others visualize where we are going, but not so wordy that it seems complicated or confusing.

Lastly, good vision statements are compelling.  They demand a response from us.  They capture our hearts, not our heads.  They raise our sights to the future and inspire us to act.  They draw us to join in and help make that future vision a reality.  They are easy to recruit other to because they are big enough to allow room for many to join with us.

Casting vision is a primary job of the team leader.  You are the primary mouthpiece for the vision.  If you share an unclear vision then those around you will be even more unclear as they are forced to ‘translate’ what you have said into their context.

Vision much be repeated again and again, for it comes into and out of focus for those we lead.  Changing realities and ‘glorious opportunities’ can divert attention from what was once very clear, but now seems less important or even boring.  Keeping the vision before those we lead is a discipline that we develop as we lead, always reminding those around us of ‘why’ and ‘what’ we are about.

Vision – don’t leave home without it!

Leaders and Crisis

Life and leadership bring crisis moments whether we are expecting them or not. They just happen! This reality should prepare us to address them when they show up. But we are often taken by surprise when a crisis interrupts our plans. Crises are not something to be dreaded, but rather embraced.

The following are several thoughts on how to face up to your next leadership crisis:
1. Adjust your attitude! This current crisis is an opportunity for your personal growth as a leader as you address this latest ‘disaster.’ Rather than fearing this crisis, embrace it and look for the Lord to help you not only conquer the problem, but also turn this into a hidden blessing.

2. Move towards it now! It will not solve itself! If ignored, it will probably grow worse, bigger, more ominous, or ripple out to influence more people. Just as David ran towards Goliath (see 1 Samuel 17:48), move towards this threat and engage!

3. Do not delegate your problems to someone else on your team. Others can ‘smell’ that kind of lack of courage or unwillingness to deal with something that is messy.

4. While not delegating the crisis to another, loop in some others for help. You continue to run point on the crisis, but by bring in others for help they too will grow from the experience and their contributions will often help bring about a better solution than if you handled it all yourself.

5. Look for the best solution to the problem, not just the quickest or easiest. One practical discipline that I have tried to develop in this area of problem solving is to force myself to come up with several possible solutions, not just one. But doing this I am often pushing myself to think more deeply or broadly to different, more creative ways to solve the issue. The final action is often some combination of several possible solution scenarios.

6. Expect God to help you. He has promised to never leave you or forsake you (Matthew 28:20). Look to Him in the midst of seeking a way forward. The prayer of Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20:12 is instructive, “Lord… we do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

7. When the crisis abates, and it will, be sure to give thanks for deliverance from the current mess. An ungrateful spirit is disappointing to others serving with you and revealing about our hubris as if we were the ones who really solved the issue.

Crises come and crises go. Your either in the midst of one right now or one is coming soon. Get ready! One person’s crisis is another person’s ‘opportunity.’

[Re-posted from June 2015]

The Treasures of Darkness

The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.    Exodus 20:21  ESV

What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.   Matthew 10:27  ESV

I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.   Isaiah 45:3  ESV

Note where Moses had to go to meet with God – into the ‘thick darkness.’  What a description!  Try to imagine the difference between simply being in the dark and being in the ‘thick’ darkness.  Sounds quite foreboding doesn’t it?

It would seem that the adjective ‘thick’ implies something that can be felt, not just seen.  It is a darkness that it total, overwhelming and scary.  Perhaps it’s similar to being in a large underground cave where all lights extinguished.  It’s an eerie feeling for sure when you can’t see your hand in front of your face.  But it is in this kind of absolute darkness of soul that God invites us to meet with Him and He speaks to our innermost character.

Our tendencies are to run away from and recoil from the darkness.  We plead with God to remove it or shine some light within.  But it is in this foreboding darkness of soul that the Lord speaks, for He has our undivided attention with no other sensory distractions other than our own thoughts.  It is in the ‘thick darkness’ that we can hear the still, small voice of God piercing through into our hearts and bringing comfort, hope and assurance.

When we hear His voice, we begin to realize that He intends to use our darkness to bring new life within us.  And He gives a new life message that will transform us forever when we exit the darkness.  It is a platform of influence that we never would have had, had we not experienced Him in the darkness.  We exit the darkness with a new-found strength and message that He intends for us to share.  “What I tell you in the dark, say in the light…”

Therefore, do not shrink back from the darkness you may be facing.  Embrace it.  Plunge into it.  For in this darkness you will find the treasures of God Himself and the life-changing messages that He will give you.  He promises, “I will give you the treasures of darkness…”

He will see you through the darkness into the light.  When you exit, you will be forever changed more into His image than when you entered.  And He will use you as His instrument in ways you had not dreamed or imagined.

“When my schoolroom is darkened, I see most.”     Charles Spurgeon

Black Swan Event

Black Swan Event  =  an unpredictable or unforeseen event, typically one with extreme consequences

Up until the late 1600’s naturalists assumed that all swans were white.  However, in 1697 the Dutch explorer Willem de Vlaminck discovered black swans in Australia.  This unexpected event upended assumed paradigms and profoundly changed zoology.

Today, our English vocabulary has co-opted this to coin the phrase, ‘black swan event’ where something very unexpected happens that has huge ramifications.  One can imagine how the terrorist’s attacks of 9/11/01 were a ‘black swan event.’  It would also seem that the Covid-19 pandemic is another one.

These events are unprecedented and human wisdom fails to be able to adequately address them because worldly wisdom is founded upon previous experience.  When there is no prior experience to fall back upon (unprecedented), at best we draw from parallel experiences or insights to deal with a completely new situation.

But Kingdom leaders have a second and more reliable source of wisdom for leading in turbulent times – wisdom that comes from above, godly wisdom.  Young and old alike may posses God’s wisdom, for it is a gift.  James 1:5 promises that those who ask for it will receive it.  “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”  (ESV)  We desperately need this kind of wisdom now!

With the traditional forms of ministry being taken away (i.e. group gatherings large and small), new virtual gatherings (think online video conferences) are rapidly becoming the norm.  Life-to-life discipling still continues but we now connect via our computer or phone screens instead of in person.  The old mantra of ‘form follows function’ is proving true as new ministry forms are being adopted and adapted to meet our functional needs.  It’s a very new day!

As our old ways are swept away by the raging torrent of rapidly changing events around us, we must look to Him for help and the ability to meet the demands of our new situation.  These events have not taken Him by surprise.  In fact, He is orchestrating all for His good purposes and for the advancement of the Kingdom among the peoples of the world.

The headlines and news leads shout woe and sadness.  But God’s work is often unseen and quiet in the midst of the storm.  We must keep our eyes steadfastly on Him as we navigate the storm.

… And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith…    Hebrews 12:1-2  NIV

 

Pay Attention to Morale!

 

Morale is the greatest single factor in successful warfare.

     Dwight Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe  

Leaders who neglect the morale of those they lead will pay a big price and lose much momentum in the mission by just assuming that all is well.  Here’s several thoughts on how to maintain good morale.

Never underestimate the importance of your presence.  Just showing up with those you are leading does a great deal for their morale.  You being with them, paying individual attention to them, goes a long way to keeping morale high.  And when you visit with them, ask them questions about what they are learning, what the Lord has been teaching them, or what things you can be praying for them.  And when you do ask them, note their answers and be sure you pray over their requests.  Then, follow up with them in the future.  Your personal attention will mean a lot.

Loose lips sink ships – this phrase originated during WW2 to remind all to beware of unguarded talk.  So too for leaders who carelessly talk about things that can breed distrust or fear in the minds of those they lead.  Think about what you are saying and guard you lips on topics that can distract or create undue fear of the future.  Rather, use your words to point people to Christ, our hope in Him, and His promise to see us through and never leave us.

Rumors spread like wildfires and when any unfounded rumor comes to your attention address it fully and quickly.  Don’t assume that it will just die on its own.  Rumors have ways of growing into wildfires of fear and can create full-blown panic if not addressed.

Any lack of communication from leadership and people tend to think the worst.  This can be true of an individual or a group.  Make it your habit to regularly keep those you lead informed.

Affirm, affirm, affirm!!  You speak at a volume of 3 but are heard at a volume of 9 because you are the leader.  Use this reality to benefit others!  Don’t flatter but affirm!  Find someone doing something right and tell them about it!

Do you know the morale of your troops?  Are they hearing from you regularly?  Are you out among them?

Making Decisions According to God’s Will – 7

The Lord will have no trouble in communicating to us what He wants us to do.  Our problem is doing God’s will, not knowing God’s will!  We must be willing to do whatever He desires for us, before He will let us know His plan for us.

The Lord often uses five means to direct us into His will.  The first is the Word of God – the Bible.  The second is personal peace about the decision when you pray and reflect upon it.  The third means is wise counsel and the fourth is critical thinking.  The fifth and final common means is circumstances.  The Lord can use extra-ordinary means – visions, dreams – but, most often it is these five.

The more of the five things that we see agreeing, pointing in the same direction, the more certain we can be that this is God’s will.  If one or two agree, but the others don’t, we have two possibilities.  It may be God’s will, but the wrong timing.  Or, it may not be God’s will.  In either case, it’s best to wait; time will clarify.  Immaturity will press ahead when things are not clear and pay a big price!    Proverbs 19:2 (NIV) says, “Desire without knowledge is not good–how much more will hasty feet miss the way!”

God being God, He will not allow circumstances, governments, organizations, or anyone with authority over us to hinder His plan for us.  In fact, He uses them to direct us to His plan for us (see Joseph in Genesis 50:20).

Remember, the foundation is surrender to doing God’s will.  We can deceive ourselves.  We can find verses to justify about anything.  We can “have peace” about a lot of things.  Satan can open doors for us also.

God knows this.  He knows we can be confused.  He will not let His children stray from His will if they desire it.  So relax.  He will keep you in the way and guide you every step of the process.  He’ll also keep you from wrong decisions.  It gives us a great deal of confidence in facing the future.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

and do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge him,

And he will direct your paths.           Proverbs 3:5-6  (NIV)

Making Decisions According to God’s Will – 6

The Lord will have no trouble in communicating to us what He wants us to do.  Our problem is doing God’s will, not knowing God’s will!  We must be willing to do whatever He desires for us, before He will let us know His plan for us.

The Lord often uses five means to direct us into His will.  The first is the Word of God – the Bible.  The second is personal peace about the decision when you pray and reflect upon it.  The third means is wise counsel and the fourth is critical thinking.  The fifth and final means is circumstances.

God will open doors to guide us.  He will also close doors to lead us to other open doors.  But the enemy can also create opportunities and seek to confuse with multiple choices, all seemingly good.  How to know is the closed door permanently closed or is it simply a matter of continuing to knock and wait until it opens?

In Acts 16:6-10 (ESV) we read, “And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.  And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.  So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas.  And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’  And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”

It seems that Paul’s strategy was to plant the gospel in major cities that were transportation and communication hubs.  On this, his second ministry tour, he completed visiting the cities from the first tour and now was going to go to Ephesus – the major city in the province of Asia.  Logic and strategy dictated this as the next destination.  But, God, through the Holy Spirit (a prophet, vision, dream?) prevented this from happening.  The door closed.

The team redirected north to Bithynia and then to Mysia.  Both were again blocked from entering by the Spirit, finally ending in the port city of Troas.  It was here that Paul had a vision (note the extra-ordinary means of direction) to come into Macedonia (northern Greece).  Europe was next in God’s plan, but it was not originally part of Paul’s.  Ephesus was reached eventually, but it would be several years later on Paul’s third tour.

The Spirit will let you know if the door is closed and you should redirect or just be patient and trust and He will open it in His time.  Tune your heart to His voice and you will hear it.

 

Making Decisions According to God’s Will – 5

The Lord will have no trouble in communicating to us what He wants us to do.  Our problem is doing God’s will, not knowing God’s will!  We must be willing to do whatever He desires for us, before He will let us know His plan for us.

Remember, we are talking about major decisions in our lives, not things like, “What color should I paint my wall?”  But rather such decisions as, “Is God asking me to assume this ministry leadership role?”

The Lord uses five means to direct us into His will.  The first is the Word of God – the Bible.  The second is personal peace about the decision when you pray and reflect upon it.  The third means is wise counsel.  The fourth is critical thinking.

It was Dawson Trotman, founder of The Navigators, who said, “God gave you a lot of leading when He gave you a brain.  So use it!”

Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV) says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”  Note that it does not say to forget your own understanding.  Rather, it says ‘do not lean on your own understanding.’  That is, do not put your full weight upon your ability to understand.  You often can’t think your way into the will of God for many times God’s will is counter-intuitive and ‘illogical’ from the world’s perspective.

But neither should we throw away our brain when working through an important decision.  I will often make a ‘pro-con’ or ‘plus-minus’ list.  In one column I’ll list all the things that I sense are positive about this decision.  The other column are those items that seem negative or I have major concerns about.  Then I reflect and pray for discernment over both columns.

Think it through.  Reflect on it and ask the Lord for objectivity over yourself.  Ask for Him to give you His perspective on this and insight into the consequences in the future – both good and bad – of this decision.

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